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Living with Arthritis.4

artist Dorothy GauvinRheumatoid Arthritis - Practical Tips for Overcoming Its Obstacles

'Give me a place to stand and and a lever long enough and I will move the world.' This statement was made by Archimedes, the famous mathematician and inventor who lived in ancient Greece, nearly two thousand years ago. His idea is the fundamental clue to how you can overcome the obstacles of arthritis by...

The principle of the lever:

it can be applied to help with most of the everyday tasks that arthritis makes difficult. For example: if Rheumatoid Arthritis has deformed your hands, even turning a key in the lock of your front door becomes a teeth-gritting struggle.

  •     A key-turner can make you the winner. Your key - of any size - slots between the two blades of a handle and is held securely by tightening a screw that holds them together. Made of a durable plastic, the handle is about 6 inches long, giving you the leverage your weakened hands need.
  •     Jar openers that incorporate the principle of the lever do many jobs in the kitchen, laundry and workshop.
  •     An ingenious device I bought to turn the taps on our former gas range is now in the twentieth year of its daily duty in the studio. I use it to turn dials of mechanical items such as the timer on my workbench and the dashboard of my studio air-conditioner.

The device has a platform embedded with multiple metal pins that retract as they meet resistance from hard surfaces. A two-inch column rises from the platform to support a handle just four inches long. The pins can adjust to objects of any shape of object and by pushing down and twisting the handle, I can deal with knobs and dials that were once beyond my strength.

  • You can make Time your ally instead of the enemy, if you resist the natural resentment you feel over how long it now takes to do simple things. Make it easier on yourself by:
  •     Doing some stretching exercises before you even get out of bed in the morning. These will combat the effects of muscle contracture that beset people forced into long periods of inactivity.
  •     Taking a shower rather than struggling into and then back out of a bath tub. Morning aches, in muscles that have cramped around sore joints during the night, will be eased by turning the water jets on full blast. Some say this is due to the ionising action of water bouncing from the tiled floor, similar to the refreshing effects of a nearby waterfall in the rainforest.

    Alternating between hot-as-you-can-stand-it and almost cold water, also helps. This is said to be due to an increase in blood flow around the body. I only know it works for me. It's the very best way to start your day. ( Though a kiss from your loved one is hard to beat.)

    In the shower, use a pump-action dispenser for shampoo and liquid soap. Keeping a soap dispenser beside every hand basin and sink is a good idea,too.

    When you're finished showering, wrap up in a giant-sized towel that will have the job of drying yourself half done by the time you reach for a hand towel to dry between your toes.

  •     Buttons and zips can be a major cause of frustration, particularly when you're in a hurry. You can beat this obstacle with a clever device made of heavy duty brass wire. Covered in soft but sturdy foam rubber, the wire has a hook for catching and pulling zippers at one end. At the other, it forms a kind of super-sized needle-threader. You insert through this into the buttonhole to capture and pull the elusive button through. Once closed, the threader can be wiggled to release it from the button.


All of these devices are manufactured items readily available at pharmacies that cater for people needing orthopedic aids. Usually made of plastics, many can be replicated at home in wood or metal.

They not only save your precious time and lessen those daily frustrations. They boost your morale by decreasing the number of times you must ask for help. That, in turn, lessens the friction that can arise between you and the person who helps you over the daily hurdles.

Some of the daily obstacles you face have no ready answer, as yet. I encourage you to use your first-hand knowledge of the problems to imagine possible solutions. Brain-storming with a partner or friend who is handy at working with wood or metal can result in a design for tools that do the jobs your hands no longer manage. Along with our son, my partner has turned many of my dream-designs into practical devices that help me work at what I love doing.©Dorothy Gauvin

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